The Shanghai-Nanjing High-speed Railway along the Yangtze River was opened on September 28th. This rail was constructed along the south bank of the Yangtze River, whichconnects several Jiangsu counties with GDP exceeding one hundred billion RMB, including Jiangyin, Zhangjiagang, Changshu, and Taicang. It promotes the linkage and development of strong regions, strong counties, and strong cities (county-level cities), building an enhanced version of "the Yangtze River Delta on the Rails."
Nanjing University student Mo Yuchen from Uzbekistanhas wondered why these county-level cities in China with populations of only about one million have such strong economic power. He travelled to thesecountiesalong The Shanghai-Nanjing High-speed Railway to find outtheanswer.
Deer, ostriches, alpacas, mandarin ducks, swans, carp... In Jiangyin, Yuchen visited a steel factory that also houses a zoo. "People usually think that steel production is a high-emission and polluting industry, but these animals live healthy and happily here, which shows that our companyis doing a good job of environmental protection." says Yin Qing, director of the Bearing Steel Research Department inJiangyin Xingcheng Special Steel Works Co., Ltd.
Xingcheng Special Steel Works Co., Ltd. is a local company in Jiangyin and has now grown into the world's largest single-entity special steel producer with the most comprehensive range of products. It has been involved in many significant projects both domestically and internationally, such as the Pelješac Bridge in Croatia, Burj Khalifa Tower, China's FAST, and theShanghai-Suzhou-Nantong Yangtze River Bridge. Like most companies in Jiangyin, Xingcheng Special Steel Works Co., Ltd.is actively pursuing digital transformation. The steelmaking Wisdom Hall brings together data from blast furnace production across the country. It enables real-time online monitoring of production processes and allows for remote expert diagnosis, significantly improving production efficiency.
Xingcheng Special Steel's digital transformation is a reflection of Jiangyin's efforts to activate comprehensive innovation. As the No. 1 county in the Chinese manufacturing industry,Jiangyin has been actively exploringhow to deeply integrate the industrial chain, innovation chain and talent chain, and how to make the manufacturing industry upgradewith the goal of creating an advanced manufacturing and scientific innovation center with national influence. "Scientific Innovation Jiangyin" is changingfrom a vision to reality.
Artemisinin is a treasure in traditional Chinese medicine, but for a long time, the production technology for artemisinin drugs had been monopolized by two European pharmaceutical giants.Yan Yongyi, thedirector ofVinsce Bio-Pharm(Suzhou)Co., Ltd., recalled the experience of starting a business and settling in Zhangjiagang.
In 2010, Yan Yongyi, who had accumulated rich experience in the plant extraction industry, returned to China. He began to studythe production technology of artemisinin derivatives with three PhD colleagues from theChinese Academy of Sciences and Sun Yat-sen University. During the critical period when the company was transitioning from research and development to industrialization, he came to Zhangjiagang for further development based on recommendations from friends. Yan Yongyi clearly remembers that when he first arrived in Zhangjiagang, the local government provided significant support in terms of funding, factory buildings,etc. Over the years, their company has developed into the world'suniquecompany with a full industrial chain for artemisinin pharmaceutical raw materials.
More and more talents are turning their attention to Zhangjiagang.Until now, Zhangjiagang has 443,000 talents in total, including 41,000 high-level talents, and more than 1,200 leading innovative and entrepreneurial talents.Attracting talent is one thing, but retaining talent is equally important. To achieve thisgoal, Zhangjiagang has laid out a "talent strategy" with comprehensive support in all areas. The city promotes talent introduction and provides unprecedented "comprehensive support." It also offers support for the entire talent development process, including "listing support" for companies aiming high and "financial support." A comprehensive talent service guarantee system has been established, and Zhangjiagang has implemented a talent service special action to expand the depth and breadth of talent services to the fullest extent.
When Yuchen visitedChangshu Garment Town, he noticed that it was different from traditional shopping centers, with few customers in sight. As early as 2021, Changshu Garment Town hastransformed the 2nd to 5th floors of the mall into a digital fashion base for e-commerce live streaming, with about 150 live broadcasting rooms. Here, offline foot traffic is no longer the most critical measure; live room numbers, followers, and order volumes are what businesses value more. Outside the lively live rooms, warehouse managers push carts through the base, scanning and packaging clothing items, and sending them to various parts of the country.
Wei Hui, Deputy General Manager of general market in Changshu Garment Town, told Yuchen that through online logistics platforms, the monthly order volume of the digital fashion base in the garment town is around 600,000 units, with an annual transaction volume of around 6 billion yuan. The transformation of the garment town reflects Changshu's ongoing effort to stimulate industrial transformation and enhance efficiency.
For the last stop of the visit, Yuchen wanted to understand why the former Chinese Ambassador to Germany, Shi Mingde, once said that Taicang had higher recognition in Germany than even in China. When he walked along Nanjing Road in Taicang, names of renowned German manufacturing companies such as TOX， TRUMPF，and SCHAEFFLER caught his eye.
Since the first German company settled in Taicang in 1993, over the past 30 years, about 500 German companies have been attracted here. Apart from its exceptional geographical location, the high-quality business environment and ecology are among Taicang's competitive advantages. "In Taicang, when companies are operating normally, the government doesn't interfere. When companies need support, the government is quick to respond. Our motto is 'Respond to every call, without interference when not needed’ ” says Tu Danping, Director of the Economic Development Bureau of Taicang High-Tech Zone.
At Taicang Port, located a few kilometers away from the German corporate park, Yuchen saw rows of stacked containers and cargo ships navigating the Yangtze River. The excellent geographical location is one of Taicang's advantages in attracting foreign companies. The Yangtze River's largest foreign trade port has now established routes with 67 domestic ports and has trade relations with over 200 countries and regions. In 2022, the port achieved a total import and export volume of 110.644 billion yuan. "Taicang's international reputation is growing, and its global influence is increasing." says Yu Fei, Deputy Director of Taicang Bureau of Commerce.
Since the "South Jiangsu Model" was created in the 1980s, county-level economies in South Jiangsu have continued to prosper. According to Deng Chuanlin, Deputy Director of the County Economy Research Center at CCID Consulting, the current development of county economies in the region demonstrates a "Yangtze River Delta City Cluster Innovation-Driven Model." This model is characterized by industrial development transitioning to a stage driven by new elements such as knowledge, information, data, high-end talents, and more. It focuses on specific industry directions, fosters cooperation among counties in the region that emphasize differentiation and specialization, and promotes cooperation with global technology innovation entities in areas such as technology patents and industrial transfer. This integration into a global innovation network is contributing to regional economic restructuring.
With the opening of the Shanghai-Nanjing High-speed Railway along the Yangtze River，cities along the railway, including Jurong, Jintan, Wujin, Jiangyin, Zhangjiagang, Changshu, and Taicang, have officially joined the "1-hour traffic circle" between Shanghai and Nanjing. Feng Shuchun, a member of the Party Committee and Deputy Director of the Jiangsu Provincial Strategy and Development Research Center believes that the opening of the Shanghai-Nanjing High-speed Railway along the Yangtze River will further boost the circulation of various elements of the industrial chain, accelerate the aggregation of universities and research institutions, and promote faster mobility of talents, funds, and logistics. Moreover, the Shanghai-Nanjing High-speed Railway along the Yangtze River, along with the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the Shanghai-Nanjing Intercity Railway, and the North Yangtze River High-speed Railway, together form a high-speed artery radiating westward from the Yangtze River Delta. This will open up new development space for strong counties in the South Jiangsu region and promote the creation of a regional economic layout characterized by interaction, complementarity, mutual promotion, and common development in the eastern, central, and western regions.